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Plants in the Alpine House or Cold Frame: Primulas Everywhere

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Started by: Jon Evans

A visit to David Philbey's alpine house in March this year

Go to latest contribution by Jon Evans, 17 May 2013, 14:53. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Jon Evans 23 April 2009, 18:14top / bottom of page

While I am still sorting the photos from the shows earlier in the year, here are some from a visit to David Philbey's alpine house in late March this year. Regular exhibitors will know that David specialises in European primulas, almost to the exclusion of anything else. He is also my stepfather, which means that I get to visit on a fairly regular basis.

It is always very rewarding to visit growers who specialise in particular genera. Not only are their skills and growing conditions honed to that genus, but also you get a much better idea of the variety of plants within the genus. On the bench at any particular show, you often see several different plants of the same cultivar competing for first prize; in a specialist's alpine house you see hundreds of different varieties.

David grows over 200 different clones of Primula allionii, and about 400 European primula hybrids, including about 200 of his own seedlings.

Here I am entering the large (20ft) greenhouse. Note that the south side of the house is already shaded to keep the heat of the sun to a minimum; we had some very warm weather in the second half of March. Note also the show pans stood on the floor in the shade, to try to keep them in good condition for the following weekend.

At the near end of the bench are two of David's miniature gardens, constructed by cementing lumps of tufa into a clay saucer. These are used primarily to grow small primula cultivars, particularly allionii, and look stunning at shows when in full bloom.

Ah, he's noticed my arrival. Let's have a better look at the right hand bench, which holds the main collection of hybrids. On this occasion I only had my little Fuji compact with me, so I couldn't really get the depth of field I wanted.

On the north side of this greenhouse, under a high shelf, David houses the collection of Primula allionii clones. By this time (March 25th), many of these had already gone over and the dead flowers have been picked off carefully.

David has a second, smaller greenhouse, where many of his own seedlings are kept, and where most of the propagation occurs. This bench is all his own seedlings - he has focused for a long time on trying to raise miniature yellow, cream and white cultivars.

At the end of this house is another batch of more recent seedlings - again yellow predominates.

This is a collection of seedlings in their first or second year of flowering, arranged by colour. Although the breeding program focuses on yellows and whites, there are some jolly good pinks, reds and blues here.

This final batch of seedlings have never flowered before, so there is a considerable degree of excitement, waiting to see what sort of flowers they will produce. Of course many will fail to make the grade, and be discarded.

Also in the little greenhouse, this year's seed is sprouting like mustard and cress. I don't know where he will find room to prick all these out.

Cutting trays full of sand house bits of plants which succumbed in the autumn and winter, or shoots which were inadvertently detached whilst removing dead leaves. The cuttings which survived the initial trauma seem happy enough here, and many are flowering.

Finally a closer view of one of the trays of cuttings - allionii and hybrids mixed together. My thanks to David for letting me take the pictures.

Contribution from john lee 23 April 2009, 18:59top / bottom of page

What a wonderful display,thanks for taking and showing the pictures to us Jon,It appears the house is shaded,can you give us a little info on this please

Contribution from Jon Evans 23 April 2009, 20:38top / bottom of page
Shading

The ridge of David's large greenhouse runs East-West, so one side is facing south, and the house can get very hot. Because of this he puts shading from the ridge down the south side of the house to keep the plants cool.

The shading goes on as soon as the temperature in the house starts reaching the mid-20s Centigrade regularly. This year that was mid-March; depending on the season it may be as late as early April. In an ideal year, the plants would have finished flowering before the shading needed to go on, but the weather is seldom so kind.

He takes the shading off again in late September, so the plants have maximum light during the late autumn, winter and spring.

The shading he uses is made of woven plastic and offers something like 75% shade. If the side of the greenhouse did not receive full sun, something lighter would probably suffice.

Hope that helps - Jon

Contribution from David Nicholson 04 May 2009, 20:53top / bottom of page

As a 'trainee' Primula grower myself what an inspiration these pictures provide.

Contribution from Jon Evans 06 May 2013, 21:47top / bottom of page
2010

David Philbey, my step father, has asked me to post a few more pictures he has taken of his primulas. We start with a few views of the alpine house taken in 2010. These are scans of some 6x4 prints, so the quality isn't great. The first picture is of the main bench of European primula hybrids - the second and third of the bench containing all his own seedlings. Finally we get David himself, examining and selecting some white seedlings.

2010
2013

Moving forward to 2013, here are some more general views David took this year. Again the last (fourth) picture is the bench containing just his own seedlings.

2013
2013 - New Seedlings

Now we move on to photos of individual plants, starting with some selected seedlings. His breeding program has focused on whites, creams, and yellows, and they predominate among the photos.

DPP-1148

A curious, semi-double hybrid which at the moment has a very compact stature, but it is too soon to tell.

DPP-1148
Annabel
Annabel
Nigel
Nigel
Ronnie
Ronnie
Mischief
Mischief
Midget
Midget
Lilac Lustre
Lilac Lustre
Goldfinch
Goldfinch
DPP 993
DPP 993
Lilac Lady
Lilac Lady
Polly
Polly
The Prodigal
The Prodigal
Acacia
Acacia
DPP 866
DPP 866
DPP 1156
DPP 1156
Lilac Time
Lilac Time
Lavender's Blue
Lavender's Blue
DPP 1158
DPP 1158
DPP 1160
DPP 1160
Butterscotch
Butterscotch
Marmalade
Marmalade

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